William B. Turner
Since it’s Easter, the day when Christians around the world celebrate the defining silly myth of the Christian calendar, lots of people are trying to Jesus shame the so called president.
Good luck. That’s not going to work.
Whether you like it or not, Donald Trump as president has the imprimatur of lots of good Christians and no doubt sees himself as a good Christian. You are free to disagree, of course, but your argument almost certainly will avail you nothing against his firmly entrenched, robustly validated self image.
Noted Christian James Dobson has written an entire essay, which he has published on the world wide web for everyone to see, in which he explains his understanding of Trump’s Christian faith. Trump is “tender to things of the Spirit” (!). He also asserts that Paula White, Trump’s “spiritual adviser,” “personally led him to Christ.” Apparently that was before she announced we should all send our January pay checks to her or risk eternal damnation.
The mostly men who stole two continents from Natives and farmed them with African slaves were almost entirely Christians. The vast majority of slave owners in the United States were good Christians who found justification for slavery in their bibles. “White supremacy” is a Christian idea that had the original purpose of allowing good Christians to explain to themselves why it was okay to enslave Natives and Africans. The vast majority of the non Jewish population of Germany were good Christians throughout the Nazi era.
John Locke, the English philosopher who articulated the political theory we now call, “liberalism,” which had a huge impact in British north America and is the grounding philosophy of both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, was a devout Christian. He also articulated the theory of epistemology we call “empiricism,” which has long since become the only theory of epistemology anyone takes seriously in the modern world, but which, not long after Locke died, started the intellectual ball rolling in a direction he might have deplored.
David Hume, the 18th century Scottish empiricist, was the first to state the conclusion that followed logically from Locke’s empiricism: humans do not come back to life three days after they die, so if Jesus was human, there is no good reason to believe the Christ myth.
Christianity has never recovered, and it never will. It persists through cultural habit, the way the Santa Claus myth persists.
But even before Locke wrote about empiricism, Spanish conquistadors were busy raping, enslaving, and killing in “the Americas” in the name of Jesus. The Puritans had landed in North “America” and were busy fighting with Natives on land the Natives had occupied for thousands of years. The Puritans won because they had more guns and the backing of the good, Christian empire, Great Britain. Colonizing for Jesus. To the South, in what is now Virginia, the first Africans had landed as forced labor at Jamestown. Enslaving for Jesus.
One can draw a remarkably straight intellectual and moral line from Columbus to Donald Trump. The two men lived five hundred years apart. They grew up in cultures that are both “European” in some non-trivial sense. Both spoke Indo-European languages. But for all that, they are in some ways, hugely disparate in terms of their historical circumstances. Columbus may have been an ad hoc empiricist avant la lettre. One doubts Trump knows what empiricism is, even as he daily benefits fulsomely from many of its technological effects. Columbus was a monarchist, one assumes, given his loyal service to the Queen of Spain. Trump may well be too addicted to the bashing of liberals that is all the rage among Republicans these days to know that he governs the apotheosis of a liberal republic, but his ignorance does not change the fact.
The one thing Columbus and Trump have in common is some significant profession of Christian belief. And that Christian belief has prevented neither of them from laying waste to anyone and anything they could get their grubby hands on.
Jesus shame Trump if it makes you feel better. It won’t make any difference in how he acts or reduce the harm he does.